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Transcript: Governor Phil Murphy discusses coronavirus on "Face the Nation," April 12, 2020

New Jersey gov: Opening economy too soon "could be throwing gasoline on the fire"
New Jersey gov: Opening economy too soon "cou... 05:50

The following is a transcript of an interview with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy that aired Sunday, April 5, 2020, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We turn now to New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. He joins us this morning from Red Bank. Governor, good morning to you. We heard from Dr. Fauci on another network, CNN, this morning that there could be a rolling reopening of the U.S. economy by next month. Is New Jersey ready for that?

GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY: MARGARET, good to be with you and Happy Easter. Boy, I'll be the happiest guy in New Jersey, if not America, if we are. But I do know one thing: any sort of an economic reopening or recovery depends first and foremost on a complete health care recovery. Getting that sequencing right, I think, based on the data and the facts that we're seeing is incredibly essential and that if we either transpose those steps or we- we start to get back on our feet too soon, I fear, based on the data we're looking at, that we could be throwing gasoline on the fire. So the pain is awful. We get that in terms of unemployment, small businesses. But I- I- based on how we see this evolving, I'm all for an economic recovery, but it's got to be on the back of a- of a full health care recovery.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Sounds like you're saying not so soon. You said yesterday at a press conference that your state is literally on edge when it comes to the supply of ventilators that you need right now. Have you asked the White House for more?

GOV. MURPHY: We have, and I have to say that the White House over the past number of weeks has delivered a series of tranches of ventilators and other personal protective equipment, but we continue to be shy on all- all fronts. And we are constantly and persistently not just asking the White House from this federal stockpile for more support, but also turning over every stone in New Jersey, around the country and, frankly, around the world.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You have a call that the White House tomorrow scheduled. Is that your chief request?

GOV. MURPHY: Yeah, it would be at the top of the list. Ventilators, I think, would be number one and PPE again is something that we are constantly on the prowl for. We have these calls which are very helpful, by the way, at least once a week. But as you can imagine, we're on with the administration every single day, -- 

MARGARET BRENNAN: Right.

GOV. MURPHY: --morning through night, having bilateral conversations on this stuff as well.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Dr. Birx spoke from the White House podium this week and said that more than 90 percent of Abbott coronavirus tests delivered to labs haven't been used. I know your state is one of those that has been chosen to use some of these tests from Abbott Labs. Do you know why there is such a backlog?

GOV. MURPHY: I don't know. I mean, I know that all the testing companies, both private sector as well as public, have big backlogs. And- and I- I don't know the specifics on Abbott. We were very happy that Abbott picked New Jersey as one of its first states, particularly in Bergen County, which- which is the county which had- this virus has hit the hardest. And we're- we're hoping that the backlogs we- we can pass through as fast as possible and expand the testing as- as quickly as possible. We're- I think we're the fifth most tests of any state in America, but we still need more.

MARGARET BRENNAN: The National Association of Governors released a bipartisan letter yesterday calling for about 500 billion dollars in unrestricted aid for states and- and asking Congress to give that money. Why is the money that the Federal Reserve has made- have made available? Why is that not enough?

GOV. MURPHY: Let's add both, MARGARET. This is not one in lieu of the other. The- the Fed steps are important and we hope to take our steps to take advantage of them. But that's no replacing direct cash on the barrel to states, assistance from the federal government, either from the CARES Act from a couple of weeks ago or from any other steps that will be taken. I support completely the NGA's ask of 500 billion dollars, in fact. Governor Cuomo in New York, Governor Lamont in Connecticut and Governor Wolf in Pennsylvania and I, a few weeks ago, said we- our four states alone think we need 100 billion dollars of direct cash assistance. So it's both that as well as the steps taken by The Fed. We're going to need all of the above.

MARGARET BRENNAN: You know, every expert we talk to tells us that in order for any state, any part of this country to reopen, there needs to be a plan in place for surveillance. That means testing and that means tracing. You sit right between New York and another hotspot in Philadelphia. You're right in that corridor. What is the regional strategy? What is your strategy to start to do that kind of surveillance?

GOV. MURPHY: Yeah, so you- you- you use the exact right word regional. We're the densest state in America, but we sit across the Hudson from New York and across the Delaware from Philly. We've got to do this in concert with our neighbors. And it's frankly, it's still an early stage, partly because the house is still on fire and job number one is to put the fire out in the house. But we have begun of rather intense, this weekend, discussions with our neighboring states on the whole question of testing, contact tracing, what are the rules of the road going to be for things like bars and restaurants to make sure we don't have unintended consequences on one side of the river versus the other. There are a whole series of steps in health care infrastructure that we need to take. I was on the phone with one of your guests this morning, a New Jersey guy, Scott Gottlieb, on this very topic a couple of days ago. So we're early stage, but you're absolutely right. We need to have a regional approach. We can't do this alone.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And we will be talking to Dr. Gottlieb shortly. Thank you, Governor, for your time this morning. Good luck to you.

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